Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales agreed yesterday to change the way U.S. attorneys can be replaced, a reversal in administration policy that came after he was browbeaten by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee still angry over the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors.What a difference a Democratic congress makes. If the Republicans were still in control, you'd have heard nothing about this gross abuse of power. There'd have been no public hearings, no subpoenas...nada. Gonzales would have been able to get away with his condescending remark labelling the unprecedented mid-term mass firings as an "overblown personnel matter." It really makes you wonder what else they've been getting away with for the past six years.
Gonzales told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and other senior members of the committee that the administration will no longer oppose legislation limiting the attorney general's power to appoint interim prosecutors. Gonzales also agreed to allow the committee to interview five top-level Justice Department officials as part of an ongoing Democratic-led probe into the firings, senators said after a tense, hour-long meeting in Leahy's office suite.
The concessions represent a turnaround by the White House and the Justice Department, which have argued for three months that Gonzales must have unfettered power to appoint interim federal prosecutors and have resisted disclosing details about the firings.
But the administration has been battered by mounting allegations that several of the fired prosecutors -- six of whom testified before Congress on Tuesday -- had been the subject of intimidation, including improper telephone calls from GOP lawmakers or their aides, and alleged threats of retaliation by Justice Department officials. One prosecutor told lawmakers this week that he felt "leaned on" by a senior Republican senator, and Senate Democrats have readied subpoenas for five key members of Gonzales' inner circle of advisers.
The capitulation came just hours after several leading Senate Republicans sharply criticized Gonzales for his handling of the issue. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, seemed to suggest that Gonzales's tenure may not last through the remainder of President Bush's term.
"One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later," Specter said sharply. In an interview with Reuters after the meeting with Gonzales, Specter said his comments did not imply he thought the attorney general should be replaced.
And do you think Arlen Specter would have been this bold if the Republicans were still in control? Not on your life. His Judiciary Committee chairmanship would have been yanked.
It certainly appears that the threat of subpoenas and the resulting public hearings proved too much for Gonzales. Wonder what he was so afraid of?
A nice little victory beating back Gonzales' power grab thanks to the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate leadership.
By the way...wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting in Senator Leahy's office with Gonzales...:)